Microsoft patents advanced, multi-dimensional sensor device for wearables

Microsoft stopped selling its Band 2 fitness trackers back in 2016. Then, earlier this year, the tech giant's Health Dashboard and all its fitness tracking apps finally reached their end of life stage. Essentially, there have been no signs in the recent past that indicate Microsoft's plans to dabble further in fitness bands - at least on the hardware end.

Now, a rather interesting new wearables-related technology has been patented by the Redmond firm - a device containing a multi-dimensional optical sensor to generate and output data regarding hemodynamics of users. Notably, the device is stated to be incorporable with wearables.

Schematic illustrating an exemplary sensor device

Microsoft believes that one-dimensional optical sensors used with conventional wearables in today's age may measure quantities inaccurately, and are quite limiting in their nature. For example, the motion of a walking user may often lead to such sensors reporting incorrect heart rates for said user. Furthermore, these sensors are unable to compute values for many other fitness-related metrics, that may actually be essential to certain users' health.

For these reasons, the advance sensor device the tech giant proposes aims to not only address the inaccuracies in measurement, but also measure new hemodynamics - a term which refers to the dynamics of blood flow. Various measures of these dynamics that Microsoft has said the sensor will be able to detect and then display include arterial heart rate, pulse waveform, arterial stiffness, tissue pulse rate, arterial blood oxygenation, tissue oxygenation, and plenty more.

Image taken by multi-dimensional sensor (left). The same image with enhanced contrast (right)

With regards to the technology incorporated within the sensor device, a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) sensor that generates images based on the data it collects may be utilized. Additionally, the device would include illuminators such as in the form of LEDs, which would illuminate the surface beneath users' skins. In this manner, the sensor would be able to capture reflections of arteries and veins. Correct placement with respect to these blood vessels can be confirmed, and the sensor device is resistant to motion, thus leading to more accurate data capturing.

After detection and generation of images, the process circuitry receives these images and verifies the type of tissue captured. It then computes values related to the hemodynamics of a user, which may be useful in predicting medical conditions such as hypertension.

Microsoft notes that the described device would be integrable with consumer-level devices such as wearables and mobile phones. Of course, there is no guarantee that the firm is currently working on, or plans to work on such a device in the future.

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